A New Vision for California Higher Education: A Model Public Agenda

March 2014

An Emerging Consensus for Transformative Changes

California’s approach to structuring and financing higher education is out of sync with the needs of students and the state. The world has changed dramatically since the 1960 Master Plan thrust California into a position of international leadership in public higher education. Today, despite having colleges and universities that are the envy of the world, California is not educating its people to levels demanded by the global and regional economies.

The Master Plan, innovative for its time, has proven insufficient to guide California’s higher education system through the changes of the last few decades. It is not just that the Plan is under-funded for the size and scope of the mission; it is outmoded. It imposes an unagile, state-centered structure on a dynamic, multi-region state. Needs that fall outside of, or between, or outgrow the capacities of the three public higher education systems cannot be well addressed by continuing the traditional approach to governance.

Numerous reports spanning the last few decades have called for fundamental changes in the organization and delivery of higher education in California. This report draws on these and other sources of information to construct a model public agenda for California higher education. A public agenda starts with the needs of Californians and imagines how those needs can best be met in ways that may stretch beyond the historically-defined missions of the three public segments. A public agenda can point to opportunities for new roles, new collaborations, and new policies that are better attuned to today’s needs. This model public agenda is intended to inspire broad discussion about the future of California higher education, potentially leading to an official public agenda for California higher education that can guide and support the changes that are so urgently needed.

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